Most of us don’t have a clue. How you interpret this verse will let you know, if you have eyes to see: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Upon first reading this verse, my natural, obvious interpretation of it is that I need to study the Bible and keep its commandments more diligently, and if I do so effectively, I will be able to discern and understand its difficult passages. Then I will neither need to be ashamed of my currently shabby, inconsistent, unproductive Bible study habits, nor my shallow biblical understanding, and God will now be proud of me, pat me on the head and say, “Good boy, good boy.”
Of course I think that; I can think no other way. Because of Adam’s Fall in the Garden of Eden, every one of his descendants comes out of the womb programmed to think only in terms of “good and evil.” We think by evaluating everything in this way, based on whatever value system we have chosen to follow—whether it be the Bible, natural law, the law of the gang, or “what’s right for me.”
This is a natural characteristic of fallen human nature, like seeing or hearing, and it determines our behavior, no matter how many academic degrees we acquire. We will always try to be “good;” this is “how” we think, no matter “what” we may think.
You might, very correctly, say of us all: “As long as we still live in these dying, unredeemed ‘bodies of corruption,’ we are completely addicted to being ‘good’ and not ‘bad,’ and we are not even aware of our addiction!”
Before the Fall, Adam and Eve knew nothing about “good and evil.” That was in God’s domain , not man’s. They only did what this mysterious, unseen Being Who created them told them to do. Adam and Eve only knew the words “good” and “evil” because God told them not to eat of the fruit of a tree whose name included those words.
At the Fall, Satan tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. He told her that if she partook of this tasty snack, “Your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (for yourself, without having to just do what God says – Genesis 3:5). She fell for it and talked her “Yes, dear,” beta-male husband into joining her.
When Adam and Eve ignored God’s instructions and ate the fruit, the entire, future human race was destined to be born addicted. We now, naturally, always think in terms of, “I can decide for myself to be ‘good’ or ‘evil.’” We can’t see the above introductory verse in any other light except, “If I perform well, God will approve of me; if I don’t, He won’t!”
But there is another way to read this verse that brings us to the opposite conclusion, and my rudimentary ability to use the Greek lexicons tells me that it is a perfectly acceptable translation: “Be diligent (when you study the Bible) to present (show, prove to) yourself (that you have been) approved to (by) God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed (because your are completely forgiven), rightly dividing the word of truth (by clearly distinguishing between law and gospel)” (2 Timothy 2:15).
This interpretation comes by looking at the Greek words while self-consciously not allowing my addiction to influence my understanding of them, and then recognizing the other Bible verses that more clearly tell me God will do what this verse purportedly told me I had to do myself. We will look at those next week.
Our sovereign God is in no hurry to achieve His eternal purpose with us. With our acquired ability to now judge for ourselves, we see that God’s time-frame is definitely a “bad” thing and that drives us crazy! But, “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8).
However, we are impatient. Rather than say, “Yes, Daddy,” to His time frame, we have devised all kinds of ways to predict that God will finish His “heavy lifting” work in our lifetimes so we (the most important generation ever!) can see it. I was personally assured, as a new Christian in 1959 by a renowned Bible scholar, that Jesus would unfailingly return by 1988 to knock heads and establish His kingdom in Jerusalem by force
Bible scholars have determined that the Scriptures indicate Creation and the Fall occurred in about 4000 B.C. Jesus came to earth in 5 B.C. He was crucified, resurrected, ascended to Heaven, received His kingdom, and the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost to permanently indwell His followers for the first time, all in 30 A.D. Add on the 2000 years since then to bring us to the present, (Excellent source for biblical dates – https://biblehub.com/timeline/)
So, if “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years,” God is just finishing His first week of work! Sounds as if that is perfectly reasonable for a task—His “eternal purpose” (Ephesians 3”:11)—that will last “eternally!“
Next week, how do we lick our addiction that is unrecognized but real and constantly operative in us all? Never fear, God has given us a very simple (but not easy!) way to do so.